'Toteninsel' - Isle of the Dead - is a painting by 19th Century Swiss artist Arnold Böcklin, depicting a rocky island dwelling, along with a figure stood navigating a boat approaching the gateway; a version of this painting adorns the EP cover. At the gateway is a figure in white, possibly next to a coffin. While Böcklin seemingly never presented an interpretation of the painting's meaning, it was generally accepted as being a nod to the classic Greek myth of Charon and the River Styx/Acheron. Farsot were first to attempt to record a song inspired by the painting, about ten years ago, for a compilation album that was scrapped. They are joined in this latest attempt by Coldworld who, opposite to Farsot's focus on the earthly nature of the painting, have chosen to focus their songs on the aquatic aspects.
Inspiration for music, of course, can come from many diverse points. I find the concept of putting music to a static image brave and compelling (as a listener) and incredibly daunting (as a writer). So, both bands are to be commended for tackling this. I'm not sure if 'scoring' for a painting is much different from scoring a film. Although, I can only surmise there has to be an incredible display of imagination to convey all the possible interpretations of the image, whereas a film is arguably more explicit in its intent.
Farsot lead this split EP with the tracks 'Erde I' and 'Erde II'. A very simple, but effective, guitar line opens 'Erde I', and our introduction to the earth-bound theme. As my German language skills are like my rocket-scientist skills, I am restricted to letting the ambience of the music guide me. I'm trying to balance the image's Greek mythological interpretation with a desire to keep my mind blank; to let the music tell me what it wants. In this respect I'm failing. I can't seem to connect the music to the painting; beyond an eerie sensation (which, is arguably present in most of black metal's offspring). I do, however, love the arrangement of this track; the subtle jazz-like breakdown half-way through 'Erde I' is rather beautiful. Clocking at nearly eight minutes, it's a song that flies by; never outstaying its welcome. Subject matter aside, it's a triumph of a song. 'Erde II', an instrumental piece, follows in an acoustic style not unlike something from Agalloch's 'The White' EP. With this, I'm starting to understand the band's composition. While we'll all have ideas on what it means, I'm starting to think that 'Erde I' is dealing with the chaos and despair of the mortal existence, while 'Erde II' provides a serenity we may only experience in the afterlife. I can certainly picture crossing the River Styx accompanied by this moving piece.
Coldworld's 'Wasser I' and 'Wasser II' start equally foreboding. From the off, and maybe because I'm getting attuned to the idea of relating music to a painting, I'm getting a clearer vision from 'Wasser I'. There is a fluidity to the music that certainly evokes the motion of water. Again, this serenity is broken by a burst of doom-like ferocity. This mood is carried forth into 'Wasser II', the longest song on the EP. Once more, vocals join the fray, but I am oblivious to their meaning. 'Wasser II', however, begins to lose sight of the concept. It's an effective song but, barring being caught in a storm, I'm at a loss as to where this has progressed the narrative. This is not a complaint, as I'm really judging Farsot and Coldworld on the strength of the songs, but it's disappointing, just as I was "getting it", to have ended up where I began.
Farsot and Coldworld prove an effective pairing on this EP; both bands appear to have embraced the concept equally. The production is consistent, overall - something that can derail other split releases - and the performances are excellent. Whether or not the concept was successful is really a moot point. What we have is four songs, well written and presented, that, if nothing else, have introduced me to a couple of bands I'd not previously given much attention. Something I shall seek to rectify immediately.
Review by Steve Cowan
28th Sept 2018
1) Erde I
2) Erde II
3) Wasser I
4) Wasser II
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"Farsot and Coldworld prove an effective pairing on this EP; both bands appear to have embraced the concept equally."